Saturday, September 6, 2014

Americans challenge Canada’s EU cheese trade deal

Americans are challenging Canada’s free trade agreement with the European Union because it reduces their access to the Canadian cheese market.

First, they complain that Canada is reducing the quota for U.S. cheeses that can enter Canada under reduced tariffs by 800 tonnes a year. That goes to Europeans.

Second, they complain that the Canada-E.U. deal bans the use of several names for cheeses to be marketed in Canada.

The trade deal has yet to take effect because it faces a few more hurdles, such as clearing up some details and gaining approvals from all European governments and Canadian provinces.

The U.S. Dairy Export Council is the main American challenger. Others include Darigold, Seattle, Wash.; Dairy Farmers of America, Kansas City, Mo.; Emmi Roth USA, Monroe, Wis.; Fonterra (USA) Inc., Rosemont, Ill.; Gellert Global Group, Elizabeth, N.J.; International Dairy Foods Association, Washington, D.C.; Kraft Foods Group, Inc., Northfield, Ill.; Land O' Lakes Inc., St. Paul, Minn.; Norseland, Darien, Conn.; Sartori Cheese, Plymouth, Wis.; Tipico Products, Lakewood, N.J.; Trugman Nash Inc., Millburn, N.J.; and Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Madison, Wis.

The Americans also say this deal violates the 1994 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which bars countries from using free trade agreements to restrict trade.

In a mid-August letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the organizations said the Canadian plan, included in a pending Canada-European Union free trade agreement, would give the E.U. exclusive access to more than 70 percent of Canada's Most Favored Nation cheese imports.

"The Canada-E.U. free trade agreement was already problematic because it bars U.S. companies from using several common cheese names on products headed across our northern border," said Tom Suber, president of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. "And now it is clear that the same FTA would reserve 800 tons of an already low quota for cheese imports for the EU."

"This is not just bad policy," said Ken Meyers of MCT Dairies, a company in the coalition. "It flies in the face of what free trade agreements are all about. They are supposed to open trade, not restrict it."

"We expect to pick up support from more U.S. cheese companies as word of Canada's latest proposal trade restriction gets around," added Tom Gellert, vice president of Atalanta Corporation, another coalition company.